SpaceX, LADEE done, Israel to the moon, Vesta and Ceres together, almost the perfect exoplanet

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lots of things to mention today that have happened or been announced in the past few days.

Starting with SpaceX today which has done two noteworthy things today: first we have their first launch F9R which is the successor to Grasshopper, and one step closer to a reusable rocket. This first flight went off without a hitch, which is what we are coming to expect from them.



The second is their third flight to the ISS, which is another success. This flight was delayed a few times.

LADEE is done: it impacted the moon today. This was on purpose:

LADEE lacked fuel to maintain a long-term lunar orbit or continue science operations and was intentionally sent into the lunar surface. The spacecraft's orbit naturally decayed following the mission's final low-altitude science phase.

Israel to the moon: you may remember the name Sheldon Adelson, who donated a huge amount of money to the unsuccessful Romney campaign back in 2012. He is now going to donate $16 million to a much easier program, SpaceIL, which is one of the competitors for the Google Lunar X Prize. The beauty about this competition is that it has attracted competitors from nations that otherwise wouldn't be aiming at such a lofty target. Since SpaceIL has a budget of $36 million and the prize itself is $20 million, I assume this $16 million donation is a symbolic covering of the program cost on the assumption they will get the prize (20 + 16 = 36).

Vesta and Ceres are converging in the sky as viewed from Earth. If we look at Dawn's current position we can see why that is the case:


Current distance from Dawn to Ceres is now just 16.65 million km, which is three times closer than Venus ever gets to us, and 43 times the distance from us to the moon. Ceres is still just a bright star at this distance, of course.

Last but not least, we have the discovery of an exoplanet that is: 1) just about the same size as Earth, 2) within the habitable zone of its star. However, it is 3) 500 light years away. Were that number to be around 30 or so (and hopefully well under) it would be the perfect exoplanet discovery. At a distance of say 10 light years that gives us the possibility of sending a signal and having a possible response one decade later, but at 500 light years we would have to wait ten centuries. So it's not quite the discovery that we need to capture the attention of humanity as a whole.

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Readlang now available in Estonian

Monday, April 14, 2014

I've been meaning to mention this for about two weeks now - Readlang.com now has Estonian as one of its options (upon my request). I haven't been able to use it yet for Estonian, but will when I get the time.

More interesting than that though is this post by Steve Ridout, the creator of the site, on exactly how it was created, how many people have subscribed, number of visitors, amount of revenue raised, everything. It's a very long read.

One other thing I noticed a few days ago is that vocabulary is now sorted by source, so if you want to go over all the vocab learned in Book A and not Book B, then you can do that now. I think I will start naming the text I paste in now, because at the moment I usually just hit a bunch of letters for the title, read the text, click on words I don't know, and delete it after I'm done and the words I want to see later are in the system. Now of course I don't remember what bbbbb, eee, and eeeeeeeeeeee were actually about.


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Unemployment rate by European region, 2002 - 2012

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Here it is in a .gif, with the individual images per year shown below. Austria and Macedonia hardly ever change.

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Google Street View available in Elista too

This is something I came across myself the other day so it may not be very new. I've written about Kalmykia and Kalmyk here before. Kalmykia is obviously not high on anyone's list of places to visit (if it were more than one in a hundred or so might actually know it exists), so Kalmykia Google Street View has never been one of my Google Alerts. But the other day I was hovering nearby, and lo and behold:


There was a quick drive through of the autonomous republic. And when zooming in a bit more you can see that the car drove through nearly every major street in Elista. So I've embedded it just below so you can see it too. The city itself will not wow you, but being able to virtually drive around it in the first place might.


Größere Kartenansicht

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We need a few hundred Voronoi diagrams

Monday, April 07, 2014

Remember this post from 2011? I do. It's about an interesting thread on HTLAL where a user named nway, one of our friends here as well, did some interesting statistical analysis on the present and future value of languages.

Also do you remember this post from 2009? I do. It's an article about Mpumalanga in South Africa, which is next to Mozambique and where Portuguese is naturally a more important language to know than in most other parts of South Africa. Taking a look at countries and states at a local level, especially their nearest neighbors, is very important in determining the future of language education in any country.

And now to Voronoi diagrams. These show the nearest something to somewhere. For example, the country that is nearest to you when you are in...Frankfurt, or somewhere else. These maps have been very popular on /r/mapporn recently. For example, this one of Germany.


It shows that if you are in Frankfurt for example, France is the nearest place to you. If you are in München, it's Austria. Berlin, it's Poland.

Here's another one with Canada.

France is there because of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.


If I had a team of ten or so people at my beck and call, I would design the following map:

First I would generate a world map similar to those maps that show countries by GDP size, but less ugly, and have it done by region as well since regions often have separate languages. Languages with certain international prestige, such as frequently being the official language of important groups (UN, NATO, EU, international airports, etc.) may be amplified even further beyond their GDP.

Then I would colour-code these regions by language.

Then I would make them all into a Voronoi diagrams, showing which language, and its GDP, is closest to you based on where you stand.

And because there's no way I would attempt something like this on my own, I hope somebody reads this and decides to take the time to do just that.

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